Someone told me once, the dash on your gravestone between your date of birth and the date of your death, is the life you have been given and that it is important to make that dash count for something meaningful. I am trying to make my own dash count, but it comes at a high cost, and not the paper kind. Years can pass whilst decisions are being made. Waiting for the ‘right time’, almost never really comes. I have never really followed the crowd in most things that I have done: going to University, moving away from home or going travelling. It's not that I don't want to walk the paths that are well trodden; it’s just that I want to do them at my own time, in my own time and choice frame. I want to be the author of my own decisions. When that is taken away from me, the basic of my needs, I become a child, powerless to create what I know as an adult I have gained the right to have.
Why do people like to snatch choices away from you? I don't know fully, but I am learning more about it as time goes on. Perhaps it gives them a false sense of power, as if to control someone else’s decisions give them an actual strength that they don't actually possess themselves. In overpowering them, and that is what it means, to assert power over another person’s dreams and desires that they have no right to. In doing this, they end up subtracting a vital part, something very special and unique to that person’s life -their dash. The outer strength may appear greater, but they have demonstrated that they lack the inner strength that allows people to shine. In Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech he spoke of this, allowing others to shine their own light, not to extinguish it. There is nothing glorious in putting out the lights of others so that your own can shine with even more light. It's not just about them. It's about all of us. People who cannot see that are blinded with their own light – how very sad.
It is in humility that you will find the greatest strength. People who follow the way of the Buddha have the right sense of being. There is a peace and understanding that surpasses all knowledge and reason. You could try and argue against it, and Im sure that there are those people. These are the people who are probably trying to outshine them. Again, how sad that they cant find the insight to let others speak. They are often to consumed with their own opinions, but do not even listen. Two ears and one mouth, my Father tells me, to do twice the listening than than speaking. How very true.
The people who for me demonstrate their inner strength, is not shown to me through their words. Their actions give a witness to their heart. It is through these quiet actions that almost whisper the divine that makes these people show strength, actual strength that you could rely on in times of need. In battle, who would you call on, someone who talks the talk, or walks the walk? I know we all know the answer to that question, and that actions speak louder than words. No further analysis needed on that front.
To encourage another person gives them strength, to be encouraged yourself give you strength in return. It's very simple. Criticism doesn’t work. As a teacher for 10 years I have been blessed to try this out many times over. I can get an assembly hall of children to be quiet with a look. Not a threatening one. I’ve tried that too, to my absolute failure. No, it was a look that said everything and was followed by my infamous words ‘Now (and then a very brief pause followed by) who can I give house points to? As I scanned the room for every good children first to lavish my house points, I would give them out in abundance, followed by the sometimes good, but never forgetting the naughty ones. I will always recognise them. ‘Maybe in a few minutes’. And do you know what. I caught them being good. I encouraged them. Now my life may not be the stuff of legends, yet, but I’m sure that I impacted some of them. That, to me, was what being a teacher was all about. It wasn’t in the sharing of knowledge, it was in the honesty, the genuine showing that you cared enough about them. Isn’t that what we all want to know? ‘Do you care enough about me?’
To encourage another person can give them the much needed air beneath their wings. We all have wings, some just haven’t been encouraged enough to use them. My mother’s motto to be is always ‘Go for it, I support you’. Sometimes she finds it hard and it can challenge her own belief system, but she has never let me down, and that is why I am so close to her. She had blown air under my wings on so many occasions that I couldn’t count them if I wanted to. Like the time when I lost my voice, not for any medical reason, but of a family crisis that occurred. She didn’t make me talk, she didn’t actually want to talk herself, but we went places, we went together. We walked the path of pain together, not seeking to ‘fix’ the other, but in a supportive role. She shared my pain, and I hers, and that was enough to encourage each other. She was the one who brought me through those shadow days. I will always remember sitting on a bench looking out to the south coast and having the most love ever for this woman, who has witnessed her own share of pain that she should have become an empty shell person. Sitting together, sharing that specific moment and place in time is engraved on to my heart. It says: ‘The day I found out how much I love my mum and she loves me’. We have been inseparable ever since. Even though seas may block my way to her at the moment, I have my phone, and she is always there. I mean always. Through her encouragement she has taught me a very important life lesson. And it is something I treasure. For as a parent she has had an impact on my thoughts, my decisions, my life.
To feel worthwhile is to be encouraged. The story that for illustrates this for me is the story about the sun and the wind. Both were discussing who was the strongest. The wind in his conversation spoke of his power and strength. He had so much, that he believed he could actually blow a man’s coat off him as he walked. As a man walked along a road, the wind began to blow. When that did not work, he blew harder, and when that failed once more, he unleashed a vicious wind that threatened the life of the man. The man continued walking, but held on to his coat even tighter. To the wind’s utter amazement, he was proved unworthy. He wind had failed. Then, the sun, in her infinite wisdom and understanding began to shine gently. It was enough. The man took off his coat. Who had the most strength? Well, you can see for yourself who won the discussion. I’m sure the wind was mighty ticked off at the result, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t happy with the outcome. People like that generally aren’t. So maybe, ultimately people like the wind are doomed to failure. The worst thing for them is that they will continue to blame everyone else for their failings. They accept nothing, they can see nothing, and they are indeed blinded by their own light.
But there is always hope, we have Pandora to thank for that. And although I haven’t seen it yet, I have been told that in Tolkien’s ‘The Return of the King’ there is a scene between the Elves and Aragon, when a battle has to be fought and the outcome doesn’t look good. There is a very poignant scene when he is asked if there is hope. He shows them in the next few moments his answer. He then says ‘There is always hope’. And that is what continues to give me strength in almost adverse conditions.
For the people who snatch power, who subtract, who belittle, who humiliate and chastise, what is their purpose? They alone could not even tell you, for they themselves has poisoned their lives for so long, they don't know any different. They are like Kay in the ‘Snow Queen’ who has a shard of glass pierce his heart, and has one in his eyes and therefore cannot see what he is doing and sees everything distorted. But in the story there was hope, hope in the shape of a girl who wouldnt give up. For Gerda showed him, she cared enough to look for him. Lucky him I say, for without her, he would have stayed on the frozen lake, trying to spell 'eternity' for an eternity.